Are we afraid of the menu? (or Confessions of an F&I Manager’s fear of the Menu)
All around us in life we experience the use of the menu. Going out to dinner with your loved one, you are given a menu. Drive into our service lane and you are presented with a menu of services. Even our insurance companies provide a menu when we select the type of coverage we are seeking.
The use of the menu makes our decision-making process so much easier. Consider that the next time you pull into the drive thru of a local fast food restaurant with a SUV full of children! Yet, even with the proven ease of the menu concept, many of our most productive F&I Managers push back when it comes to using a menu system in the F&I office. I know this, for I was one of those F&I Managers.
I, for one, had taken a great deal of pride in that I was considered the top closer in our dealership. My team could send me anyone and with my charm and my magic dust I could package a deal in such a way as to keep the customer happy while packing in a few of my F&I products. Well at least that was my belief…I was a legend in my own mind.
The reality was that I would select which products to pitch to the customer. Sometimes I would just pack a payment and offer a few “take-away” products so the customer would feel they won the negotiation. The goal was to make as much money as possible (in many cases it was easier to make money just by jacking up the rate vs. selling a product). This song and dance worked well for a period of time until the curtain was pulled back to reveal what was really going on in the F&I scene. The public and our management team now could see firsthand the “man behind the curtain” and things changed.
The menu came about to provide an open approach, without the smoke and mirrors, to share with the customer all of our services in a group setting. You remember the old saying; “present 100% of our products, to 100% of customers, 100% of the time.” The menu allowed us to do that in record time. It was also the menu that became the paper trail used to enforce the 100% rule.
Many productive F&I Managers believed at the time that the menu would take away our ability to build value or use our talent to sell the product. The reality was the menu provided us with the opportunity to present all of our products up front at one time so we could create value through deep communication of a customer’s needs and our solutions to those needs.
We all know the menu allows us to present 100% of our products / services to the customer in the shortest period of time. The menu provides a way for the customer to say “yes” many times over as we present each of the products / services. It is also the menu that provides a complete overview or disclosure of all our services, which is an important part of our compliance policy.
In short, the menu assists us in providing a consistent presentation that allows us to monitor and track our performance. The menu helps our customers make an informed decision when it comes to our products and services.
So why are we so afraid of the menu? Maybe we are fearful of the menu because it can track our performance. Even the most experienced F&I Manager has a fear or uneasiness when it comes to reviewing his/ her numbers. Many times these fears pushed us to keep our numbers in the shadows. It was very easy to do that in the past. We would present our F&I reports with a list of non-qualifying units so to maintain a higher PVR and penetration numbers. Many times we disputed the finance statement or defended our numbers by pointing out how many “fleet deals”, “wholesale deals”, or “deals that were not T.O.’d properly” that kept us from hitting our numbers.
When we use a menu, our presentation is more consistent. It becomes a paper trail which shows that all of our customers were shown our products and services and that we did, in fact, have the opportunity to present the “Features, Advantages, and Benefits”. This consistent process pulls back that curtain even more so while measuring our ability and maybe that is why it makes many of us fearful.
The menu scared me for that very reason. My concern was the menu might take away from the image I had of myself as the top closer (the top dog) of the dealership. In fact the menu assisted me and my team to become even better. Once I got over my fear, I was able use the menu to measure my performance and adjust what needed to be adjusted. The menu led to some of my most profitable years in the business.
If you are not using the menu 100% of the time or embracing the menu concept, you are leaving opportunity on the table. The menu will provide your customer with a more pleasant experience and an easier way for you to promote your products. Oh, you will also notice a more profitable department as well, when you use the menu.
Rick Wise is a F&I Development Consultant who to this day works the F&I Desk or what we use to call “the box”. He enjoys a good discussion over the value of the menu system vs. the bump up approach. Rick can be reached at 404.217.2233